- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed doing away with Alaska’s practice of providing payments so people do not lose food stamps and other benefits after Permanent Fund dividends arrive.

Some officials are criticizing the move, calling it a direct hit to rural and underprivileged residents, the Anchorage Daily News reported .

“The governor’s budget appears divisive by design, pitting Alaskans against each other and against industry at a time when just the opposite is needed,” said Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “This is not the solution for a fiscally stable future for our state.”

The Alaska Federation of Natives represents 140,000 people including many in rural areas.

The proposed $17.7 million elimination of the so-called hold-harmless provision, requiring a change in law, would end the state support that prevents many Alaska residents from exceeding income limits for welfare programs when the state distributes the oil-wealth checks each October.

The hold-harmless payments each year ensure people don’t lose food stamps or benefits paid to the elderly, blind or disabled under the Adult Public Assistance and Supplemental Security Income programs.

The cut is part of Dunleavy’s proposal to close a $1.6 billion budget deficit.

Removing the payment will affect 36,000 “duplicated beneficiaries,” a reference to people who in some cases benefit from multiple assistance programs, said Shawnda O’Brien, director of the state Division of Public Assistance.

The state has made the payments annually for decades from the earnings of the $60 billion Alaska Permanent Fund. It’s part of the administrative costs listed on the annual checks Alaskans receive, said Neil Steininger, chief budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget.

State officials are in the process of drafting legislation that would eliminate the hold-harmless provision, Steininger said.


Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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